Family Issues and Ex-Pastor’s Wife Resentment

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So I am going through a couple things right now. For one, my already strained relationship with my mother seems to be going farther downhill. To get a bit of the backstory on our relationship, you can check out this post. Anyhow, ever since I confronted my mother about the past, I could feel her slowly backing away. She now lives in another state and at first she would call me once or twice a week and would call back within a day if I called her. Now she doesn’t return my calls for a week at a time and it has been three weeks since she last called me, even though she said she would call me in a few days the last time we talked.

I can’t help but feel a little snubbed and like I am slowly being phased out of her life, which doesn’t surprise me now that she has remarried and doesn’t need me so much anymore. This has always pretty much been the pattern when she gets a man in her life. I stop mattering as much. Honestly, there have been times I’ve considered going “no contact” because the little bit of contact we have now only tends to make me sadder, and the more I feel put aside and ignored, the more I hurt.

I’ve also been dealing with some pent up resentment I didn’t even realize I had about the years I spent as a pastor’s wife. For the first 11 years or so of our 15 year marriage, my husband was a pastor. In the past few years we have kind of drifted from the faith and become agnostic, which is a huge change from what our lives used to be. However, I just realized when having a conversation with my husband the other night, how much being a pastor’s wife for so many years deeply bothered me.

For one thing, I constantly felt judged by the congregation and compared to previous or other pastors’ wives that the congregation knew. I was not old-fashioned. I was not meek and submissive. I did not want to teach, play piano, or lead anything. It just isn’t my personality. My social anxiety makes leading anything a horrifying thought for me, but yet, I found myself almost forced to sometimes be in these roles I hated. I was pretty much forced to teach at times, and while I loved the kids, I felt panic at the responsibility. No one helped or trained me, I was just thrown right in. At one point, I had a panic attack and burst into tears about my fear of teaching in front of the head pastor, his wife, and my husband and yet none of them seemed to take it seriously and pretty much just patted me on the shoulder and said I would be all right. But I wasn’t. Even when I found out I had autism and tried to explain to the head pastor why that made social things so hard for me, his response was that everyone has those problems. But no – everyone does not!!!

My husband now realizes how many mistakes he made by pushing me. He is sorry and has genuinely apologized for putting pressure on me and making me feel like I had to do things that made me anxious to the point of sickness. He realizes now that he learned that behavior from his own parents who pressured him constantly about being involved in church and often tended to ignore his feelings if he didn’t want to do something. Like most people, he was acting out the unhealthy patterns of his family as an adult and unfortunately, I got the brunt of it.

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Lyrics of My Life, “Keep the Faith” by Michael Jackson

This may be my favorite song of all time, even though it is a little known song by the King of Pop. It is a song that I have always found incredibly inspirational and supportive when I felt like everything was going wrong and the world was conspiring against me. I have listened to this song on repeat during many drives to scary things like job interviews, or when I had to give an author talk in front of an entire elementary school years ago. Without the song, I’m not sure I could have drummed up enough courage and willpower to do things that cause me such enormous anxiety.

I think what I like best about this song is that it has kind of a kick-butt attitude, even though it sounds a lot like an African American gospel song at points. It definitely isn’t a wishy-washy song, with lyrics like:

“Better stand up and act like you want to do right
Don’t play the fool for the rest of your life
Work on it brother and you’ll make it someday
Go for what you want
And don’t forget the faith

Look at yourself
And what you’re doing right now
Stand back a minute
Just to check yourself out
Straighten out your life
And how you’re living each day
Get yourself together
Because you got to keep the faith…”

“I told my brother how to do the thing right
Lift up your head
And show the world you got pride
Go for what you want
Don’t let them get in your way

You can be a winner
If you keep the faith
Straighten out yourself
And get your mind on track
Dust off your butt
And get your self-respect back
You know me long enough
To know that I don’t play
Take it like you want it
But you got to keep the faith…”

…And that is only a small portion of the lyrics (it is a long song lol)

Support Group and Social Exhaustion

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Today hasn’t been the best day mental-health wise. I just woke up around an hour ago and it took me until now to drag myself out of bed because I honestly just didn’t want to move, let alone get up and face the day.

Yesterday wasn’t a good day either. I’m not sure what was going on, but I felt sick and exhausted the whole day. I did make myself go to a group meeting yesterday (a recovery from religion support group). My husband is helping to lead the group and it is fascinating to hear everyone’s personal stories about religion and how specific forms of indoctrination affected each of them differently. Some of those who come truly have experienced abuse at the hands of religious leaders and organizations, much like I have in my past (mostly due to my messed up family).

The meeting lasted almost three hours, which socially exhausted me. Maybe some of you don’t experience social exhaustion, but when you are autistic, being social takes so much focus and attention to do it “right”, that it always leaves me burned out and just wanting to go home and nap. Add to that, the social anxiety I had about going to the group in the first place, and I guess it is no wonder that I felt like crap both physically and mentally most of the day.

I think today I’m just going to try to take it easy and recover from the exhaustion as much as I can. I need to have my precious time alone and indulge in some distractions to take my mind off real life. I definitely welcome hearing from you guys though!

Therapy Homework: Affirmations for Self-Esteem

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I saw my therapist this past weekend and it went ok, but I honestly think sometimes my therapist gets kind of annoyed or frustrated with me. I feel like she sometimes wants to see more progress than I’ve made, especially in the self-esteem/self-loathing area. To be fair, I haven’t always been the best about following up on actual practices to feel better about myself. I have done affirmations and things like that in the past, but I always end up kind of feeling ridiculous and giving up pretty soon when I don’t see immediate results…even though I know that immediate results aren’t likely.

At the end of the session, the therapist gave me the homework assignment of looking up some affirmations that I genuinely liked and related to and giving at least a few of those a try every day, so here goes. I did a google search and found some affirmations I actually kind of related to on a Huffpost article. Here are the ones I’ve actually decided to work with:

  1. I am courageous and I stand up for myself.
  2. I possess the qualities needed to be extremely successful.
  3. I forgive those who have harmed me in my past and peacefully detach from them.
  4. My body is healthy; my mind is brilliant; my soul is tranquil.
  5. Many people look up to me and recognize my worth; I am admired.
  6. I am a powerhouse; I am indestructible.
  7. I am conquering my illness; I am defeating it steadily each day.

Most of these spoke to me because they were just simple and straightforward, or because they address issues I deal with constantly (like health issues or past trauma). #5 may seem a bit conceited at first glance, but I think it is important for those of us who feel really bad about ourselves to realize that others don’t share that negative view. If any of these affirmations speak to you like they did to me, feel free to use them for yourself!

Lyrics of My Life, “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus

The last couple days I’ve been in the mood to listen to the Hannah Montana movie soundtrack. If you’ve never heard the soundtrack, it is classic Disney with insanely catchy silly and uplifting songs sung by Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana, Billy Ray Cyrus, Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift, and others. It definitely has more than a little bit of a country twang to it.

One of my favorite songs on the soundtrack is definitely “The Climb”, which is the song that is probably most well-known from the album since it did receive some mainstream radio air time. The lyrics to this song really speak to me as someone who struggles every single day with countless mental and physical issues. I often feel like life is always an uphill battle for me. I’m often tempted to just give up, but luckily I always manage to find at least a little bit more of a fighter deep inside of me.

I must say Miley does a fantastic job of vocally emoting the feelings being sung about in the song. If you are unfamiliar with the lyrics of the song, I would like to encourage you to listen to it below and really let the lyrics sink in:

Belief in Hell Dies Hard

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Recently I read an excellent poetry book entitled “Shit House Rat“, written by Daniel Crocker (a fellow bipolar writer). The poetry in this collection is brutally honest, gritty, and humorous, and even engages some of our favorite characters from Sesame Street in a way that is unique and really outlines the harsh reality of adult life “on the street” .

One poem that especially triggered some thought on my part is one called “A Dream of Siblings”, in which the poet has a dream about his deceased brother being trapped in a sort of hell. Like me, the author no longer believes in a literal hell, at least not of the Christian theological kind, but as the following lines from the poem show, he still struggles to let go of that old belief in a fiery pit of torture:

“Even though I gave up
believing in this shit
years ago, I still wonder

Maybe I never gave up believing

Maybe, once having faith, no one
ever gives up believing

Even if the things we believe in
are horrifying.”

Illusions

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If I could have one wish, I would wish more than anything that we as humanity could let go of our illusions –

religious illusions
political illusions
personal illusions

so that we could take a cold, hard look at reality as it actually is, and work together to solve our real problems at the core. Of course, I would have to start with myself, being willing to let go of any illusions I still hold, illusions I am blind to. In fact, I have found that it is almost impossible for any of us to recognize our own illusions until we have come to a place where we are willing to let them go.

*Art by Maranda Russell